Feminist Friday: Mary Daly

But first…I’m having a hard time not turning these posts into history lessons, or some sort of quasi-feminist theory course and I apologize. I am truly trying to work on that.

Now…do you know of Mary Daly?

from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/27/mary-daly-obituary
from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/27/mary-daly-obituary

I personally did not, until once more wandering through the texts in my library from Miriam Schneir on feminism and feminist movement authors and activists.

It seems that Daly first presented as “a scholar in the fields of religion, philosophy, and theology” (Schneir 206). It wasn’t until 1968, with the publication of The Church and the Second Sex* that she became recognized as a feminist activist as well. *Notice the nod to Simone de Beauvoir in the title of her book? Schneir notes that Daly “explores the long history of misogyny and patriarchy in the Catholic Church and the implications of the male God” in this first book (206). Well, that peaked my interest greatly.

Daly went on to write Beyond God the Father, in which she was said to argue “that God need not be personified at all” (Schneir 206). Rather than anthropomorphically endow personality and gender, or noun status to God, Daly suggested that the deity named God should be conceived of as a verb, defining a state of being but undefined in form (206). That would seem to change the picture greatly from God, the father ruling from on high in heaven, to a more transcendent, maybe even universal force or energy.

I was so curious about these ideas that I jumped to order both of these books to add to my library. You may be in for reviews in upcoming FF posts.

There are later works by Daly as well, and of course you can explore those for yourself. I also found it interesting that, as Daly explored more and wrote more regarding women, feminism and religion, she began to decry the English verbiage common to religion that defined most aspects of general teachings in relation to maleness. Schneir all but admits that Daly began to construct her own terminology to fit her theories and philosophies of religion.

The short essay that Schneir has included in her book focuses on the way Daly considers that feminism, and women’s liberation, would bring about a transformation of consciousness among Christians. This piece was written early in 1971, and Daly truly believed that as women had begun to bring forth awareness of male oppression in general, the radical nature of feminism was surely going to galvanize an upheaval in the patriarchal nature of religion, and in the Catholic church specifically. The article was printed in Commonweal Magazine, but unfortunately the general access to archival issues doesn’t go back that far. A few passages as highlights, with the entire essay found in Feminism In Our Time: The Essential Writings, World War II to the Present

“As the women’s revolution begins to have its effect upon the fabric of society, transforming it from patriarchy into something that never existed before…it will, I believe, become the greatest single potential challenge to Christianity to rid itself of its oppressive tendencies or go out of business.”

“The women’s movement will present a growing threat to patriarchal religion less by attacking it than by simply leaving it behind.”

“An effect of the liberation of women will very likely be the loss of plausibility of Christological formulas which come close to reflecting a kind of idolatry in regard to the person of Jesus.”

“Since the way men and women are seen in society is a prime determinant in the whole social system and ideology, radical women refuse to see their movement as simply one among others. What I am suggesting is that it might be the only chance for the turning of human beings from a course leading to the deterioration and perhaps the end of life on this planet.”

Daly died in 2010 at the age of 81.

Finally, we’ve been seeing a push for inclusivity lately as many feminists and women’s organizations take the stand that change will not occur unless men are a part of the process. Daly seemed to have her own ideas about men and feminism. This article from Margalit Fox of the NY Times not only gives some background on Daly’s life, but also makes clear her views regarding the place of men within academic feminist discourse.



3 thoughts on “Feminist Friday: Mary Daly”

  1. I recall Daly’s thinking as quite influential in the Unitarian Church in the ’80s, when local congregations and the UUA did a massive overhaul of the official hymnal to implement gender neutral language. Not just for god terminology; man, mankind, brother, etc. all got modified. Detractors said we were turning the hymnal into an “it-nal.” (Say both words aloud, if that doesn’t make sense in print.) Daly’s work on verbiage was indeed interesting and influential.


    1. I hope the two books on order will give greater insight into Daly’s POV. I have mixed feelings I admit on just how far is too far when it comes to gender neutrality in language. It’s hard enough still to have open dialogue on issues surrounding the idea of gender as a construct- trying to change too much, such as wiping out all reference to things male in favor of a non-offensive, non-gendered language form is sort of like putting the cart before the horse. I think history has shown that our society is not willing to accept great change all at once and from the little I know of Daly at this point, she may have been pushing for too much too soon. I’m not saying feminist activism shouldn’t try to make inroads or limit their work, but too many hurdles all at once seem to muck up the process of change.
      I have that saying, “slow and steady wins the race” in my head, which is ridiculous given the fact that we are still having these conversations…


  2. In response to the “like” received from the authors at http://blog.godinterest.com/ – While I appreciate the acknowledgement I have to ask:
    Did you read my post, or simply see religion as a tag and like the post assuming I was advocating an interest in Christian beliefs?
    I wrote on Mary Daly, a radical lesbian feminist who just happened to also be a philosopher and theologian. I am an atheist. I wrote the piece to highlight the work done by Daly on past and current misogynistic and patriarchal practices found within religion. This piece, in a rather quiet way, condemns religion as oppressive and marginalizing to women. This piece, in a rather off-hand way, seeks to enlighten folks regarding the ability of Christianity to be of harm to women.

    So again, after visiting your site and reading about the ideals that you propose,
    Did you read my post?
    If so, I am very curious as to why you chose to like what I wrote.


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